According to the largest USDA study of the antioxidant content of food, cranberries are among the top five foods with the highest antioxidant content per serving. (1) The study included samples of more than 1,100 commonly consumed foods and beverages.  It represents the largest ever systematic screening of antioxidants in food.

Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from oxidative stress and the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are continually produced in the human body. Breathing air, digesting food, or being exposed to second-hand smoke or the sun all produce free radicals. Experts believe free radicals play a role in heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.

There are hundreds if not thousands of antioxidants in foods. Examples of some of the antioxidants found in cranberries include (2):

  • Anthocyanins
  • Ellagic acid
  • Quercetin
  • Resveratrol
  • Selenium
  • Vitamins A, C and E

Research suggests that antioxidants from food are more beneficial for human health compared to dietary supplements. Antioxidants seem to work best when combined with other antioxidants and nutrients naturally present in food.

Plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains contain more antioxidants than animal products, like meat and dairy. In the USDA study, the top 300 foods were plant-based products while the bottom 300 foods were animal products.

While much more research needs to be done on the effects of antioxidants on human health, research supports the beneficial role of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables in a healthful diet.

Cranberries—available in many convenient forms including dried cranberries, 100% cranberry juice, and cranberry sauce—are a wonderful way to add an antioxidant-rich fruit to your daily diet.

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References
(1)    Halvorsen, BL, Carlsen MH, Phillips KM, Bohn, SK, Holte K, Jacobs DR, and Blomhoff R. Content of redox-active compounds (ie antioxidants) in foods consumed in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:95-135. Full article available at http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/reprint/84/1/95
(2)    McKay DL and Blumberg JB. Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors. Nutr Rev 2007;11: 490-502.

Source: US Cranberry Marketing Committee

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